Why fly when you can sail?
Certain destinations offer extra tourist treats if you arrive by boat rather than a plane.
There is a trade-off with cruise travel: Yes, all the hard work is done for you and any gaps in the itinerary are easily filled, but often there is a lack of spontaneity and time spent ashore is a box-ticking blur.
So when does cruise travel beat out the other options?
St Petersburg, Russia
Yes, you can fly to St Petersburg or train there from Moscow, but neither beats the bonus for westerners of being able to avoid the lengthy, bureaucratic and expensive Russian visa process that comes with being a cruise ship visitor to the city.
If you arrive by cruise ship you’re allowed 72 hours of touring this canalled gem, provided it’s guided.
There are many facts that trivia promotions will tell you about Malta: stunning scenery, alluring deep-blue seas and fantastic cuisine. They miss out the part about the embarrassingly poor transport system.
Traffic jams and late buses are now a way of life. Of course, you get all of the former and none of the latter if you pick a cruise that docks at Valetta and cruises around the main island and its sister, Gozo.
Port Moresby and Alotau, Papua New Guinea
For Kiwis, this one is a case of ‘‘so close, and yet so far away’’.
Papua New Guinea remains largely snubbed, despite its proximity. Flights to its capital, Port Moresby, are relatively expensive and require at least one stop in Australia. Even then, the island nation is poorly connected domestically. A cruise with stops in Papua New Guinea lets you experience its vibrant culture, local crafts, huge rainforest and stunning coral reefs with far, far less hassle.
My grandmother fondly remembers her birthday in 1980 celebrating in the sun on the top deck of a felucca cruising the Nile not far from Luxor: ‘‘I felt like Cleopatra. You just cannot beat it’’. And what was true nearly four decades ago (and for Cleopatra a couple of millennia ago), still holds today. Yes, Luxor has an international airport, but the ancient city and its temples are right on the river. The Nile is Egypt, and there is only one way to see the Nile and that’s cruising in a boat.
Parintins and Manaus, Brazil
These two cities lie along the monumental Amazon river, Parintins on an island archipelago in dense rainforest, and Manaus as a former rubber-trade boom town that is now the base of many Brazilian Amazon river cruises. Manaus is larger, more than 1600km inland and has more than a few faded glamour clues to its Victorian-era trading riches, including the Art Nouveau-style Municipal Market, while the Indian Museum and golden-domed Opera House offer the so-called ‘‘jungle city’’ an urban juxtaposition. But you came here for the monkeys, right?
Cruising is a peaceful way to see Valetta.